A previous reviewer stated he was underwhelmed by the stock TS-5. Thats pretty accurate. I found it to be unusable if I was to get an interesting tone and not just something to dirty up my practice amp. Another guy praising the TS-5 made a big deal out of Garbage in. Garbage out implying that people giving it a bad review must be using crappy equipment. If Peavey Wolfgangs, Music Man EVHs and custom guitars with DiMarzio pickups are garbage, then so be it. The purchase price was the only thing that made me not kick myself for purchasing this unit.
That brings me to the mod for which I paid $20 including installation. Ive never played a TS-9 or an 808 so I cant compare it to those. This mod ostensibly brings the TS-5 up to the 808 specs but Ill have to take their word for it.
What I can say is that the improvement is remarkable. The pedal maintains its original personality with regards to gain and overdrive but the tone went from flat, coarse and boring to fairly dimensional, textured and brightly warm. Keep in mind Im talking about a $38 pedal with a $20 mod so Im not talking about the holy grail of tone but for the money, its darn usable and frankly it does pretty much what Ive always wanted my Tube Screamer to do.
I specifically like to set the distortion and tone all the way to the left (down) and adjust my out to balance it with my guitars output. It does a good job of slightly warming up the clean channel on my Peavey 100 watt 212 combo. At first listen you might just hear a clean channel but then you realize there is some warm texture there that doesn't qualify as clean. With it set this way I can leave it on all the time and not really worry about it. Its effect on the gain channels is subtle too but an A-B comparison does reveal some added texture and compression that wasnt there before. While its warmer than it was originally, it still rolls off a fair amount of low end so people looking for as much chunk as possible would still be disappointed unless their amp can make up the difference. People like this would be more likely to gravitate to a Metal Zone or similar pedal anyway. (Id like to see the look on the Metal Heads face who buys this pedal by mistake.)
I can still get a deeper, more dimensional blues tone from the amp itself but not a lot more. It is a nice subtle addition to the tone of the amp in all settings.
Turning the overdrive up does not change the character of the sound, just the tonal break up. I appreciate that it doesnt simply add a layer of fuzzzzzz over the top of my tone. It actually breaks up the way you would expect a basic overdrive unit to break up. It also has some compression so you can pot off the volume of your guitar, set the unit to a higher gain, and then pot up to add distortion and some volume for solos without making the volume seem like night and day different.
Ive used it on and off for about 3 years now. While it cant possibly be as durable as a pedal housed in metal, it feels heavier than it looks. Im not sure it would stand the abuse of night after night professional gigging but anyone from a bedroom legend to a weekend cover band member would probably be able to get years of use out of it with some responsible care.
The knobs do seem a little loose but they work fine. The input jack lost the metal collar surrounding it but it must have only been cosmetic because the effect still works fine.
Again, the low cost of the unit makes me not lament the durability. If it mattered more to me Id spring for the TS-9 and mod that.
I bought this unit a few years ago as an inexpensive means to boost my solo volume. I understand some people have good luck with this but that didnt really pan out for me so I tried to incorporate it into other areas of my sound. I always came back to the fact that it thinned out my sound and I didnt like it. I wrote it off and threw it in my Unused Equipment box and forgot about it until I heard about a local guy who does the mod. I figured Id check it out and Im glad I did.
Frankly, I could live without the pedal but since I have it and it sounds pretty good, Im using it right now. I can see where SRV-heads (or the like) would covet the sound more than I do but regardless, its very nice!
Im not sure how happy anybody would be with this effect if theyd paid $200 but as it is, I paid a total of $58 plus tax for pedal with the mod and at that price Id say its an excellent value. My rating reflects performance AND cost. Get one used for $20 and do the mod on it. Itll be the cheapest stomp box youll ever love.